Global Trade Deals, Water and You

tpp

By Arthur Zaczkiewicz, MSW

WHAT YOU CAN DO:  A version of the trade “fast track” goes to the senate. Contact our senator NOW. 

WATCH Robert Reich on the Trans Pacific Partnership.

There’s been a lot of chatter on social media sites, in blogs and – more recently – mainstream news sites about “TPP” and “fast tracking.” It has something to do with jobs and it could help or hurt the economy (depending upon who you ask). President Barack Obama is involved, and Democrats and Republicans are gnashing teeth over the darn thing. Ring a bell?

But what exactly is TPP and why should we care?

Without boring you to death, here’s a quick rundown of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal:

  • TPP involves the U.S. working with 11 other countries (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam) to reduce trade barriers.
  • The U.S. Trade Representative states that the “TPP is the cornerstone of the Obama Administration’s economic policy in the Asia Pacific. The large and growing markets of the Asia-Pacific already are key destinations for U.S. manufactured goods, agricultural products, and services suppliers, and the TPP will further deepen this trade and investment.”
  • And further, the USTR says as a group, “the TPP countries are the largest goods and services export market of the United States. U.S. goods exports to TPP countries totaled $698 billion in 2013, representing 44 percent of total U.S. goods exports. U.S. exports of agricultural products to TPP countries totaled $58.8 billion in 2013, 85 percent of total U.S. agricultural exports.”
  • President Obama has worked on TPP for the past six years – but mostly in private with about 600 business leaders and policymakers.
  • Recently, steps to make TPP a reality have been taken up in Congress, and lawmakers have struggled with a variety of proceedual aspects, including the so-called “fast track” policy that gives the President the power to negotiate trade deals (including TPP) on his own authority.

At first glance, TPP sounds like a great idea. It will bring down trade barriers that make it hard for U.S. to export goods to other countries. U.S. companies that would benefit from this include large manufacturers, multinational chemical companies, meat and processed food producers, drug makers and retailers.

Retailers in particular are interested in seeing this pass because TPP would lower the costs of goods they sell, which would boost their profits. And that’s good because two-thirds of our economy is fueled by spending on retail goods and services. And the retail industry is the largest private-sector employer in the U.S. with 42 million Americans working at retail, and in related services.

One key reason retailers are supporting TPP is that consumer spending and behavior is shifting. When the so-called “Great Recession” struck, consumers were essentially traumatized into earning less and spending less. Overtime, as economic conditions improved, shoppers remained cautious. And the consistent, year-over-year sales gains that retailers experienced was suddenly in flux. Consumers are more wary of where and how much they spend, and they are increasingly spending their money on “experiences” instead of on “things.”

And we see the ramifications of this locally. At the local mall, J.C. Penney shuttered its doors (and 75 jobs) due to a softer retail sales market. And Office Depot closed as its competitor, Staples, acquired it and closed stores.

So, who again would want to jeopardize this shaky industry – one that employs so many people? Well, taking down trade barriers is a two-way street. As noted above, the trade deal would help many businesses. But it would also harm many others as well. Such as smaller manufacturers and farmers, which is why Congressman Chris Gibson is cautious on TPP. In a letter to constituents last week, he wrote:

“Last week, I finally had the opportunity to read the TPP. I am opposed to this agreement as it is written currently. I have many concerns surrounding agriculture, small business, workers, the environment, our personal privacy, and national sovereignty. Specifically, I believe the TPP could do the kind of harm to agriculture that NAFTA did to manufacturing in our country, undermining the ability of our farmers to compete with our global competitors. I am confident that if we got a fair trade agreement that put our farmers, small business owners, and workers on a level playing field with our global competitors, we would do very well. The proposed TPP draft would not achieve that goal.”

One example of who would be harmed is local dairy farmers and milk producers, like Boices Dairy. If TPP was passed, the market could be flooded with cheap milk from overseas and our local producers would not be able to compete. Apple farmers would also be threatened. Ulster County is the largest apple producer in the state, which is the second largest supplier in the U.S.

On the manufacturing side, TPP presents more problems than it solves. Last month, Kevin L. Kearns, president of the U.S. Business & Industry Council, said in a letter to council members that since 2000, “the U.S. has lost more than five million manufacturing jobs and 57,000 manufacturing establishments. This lost manufacturing has come at a real cost for America’s middle class. What should be paramount on the minds of our elected officials is how to rebuild this lost industrial capacity. The TPP is emphatically not the answer. Instead, it’s simply the latest in a long line of trade deals (like NAFTA, China, CAFTA, South Korea, etc.) that have opened the door to predatory trade with countries that have only their own interests at heart.”

Kearns is angry, and rightfully so. Economists repeatedly urge for policy that encourages bolstering manufacturing and related infrastructure. Why? Because these types of jobs pay the best and without it, the middle class can’t exist, and our economy would tank, which is what is slowly happening, according to economists from the Pew Research Center who say the middle class is evaporating.

Ok…so aside from harming dairy and apple farmers, how else is TPP a questionable policy? Well, according to drafts of the TPP released by Wikileaks and media outlets such as The New York Times, there’s a policy in TPP that would allow multinational companies to overturn local laws that impede their path to profitability via appealing to an international tribunal. But what would that look like? And why would that be bad?

Consider this possible scenario:

A major drug maker such as Pfizer – under the TPP policy – could say that certain laws in the U.S. (or any of the member countries) are limiting its ability to make profits. This could be laws that prevent the drug maker from releasing products without testing its safety on humans first. Pfizer could appeal to the tribunal and overturn these laws.

Or it could be a food company that says certain laws that prevent food additives thwarts its sales and profitability, and could appeal to the international tribunal to overturn these laws.

Another example would be Monsanto saying that local laws that ban pesticide use is reducing its sales and profits. It too could appeal to the international tribunal and have those laws overturned.

And the examples go on and on, which is why many environmental groups are against TPP. And they are joined by some strange bedfellows: Tea Party activists who see this as a threat to U.S. sovereignty. The biggest threat, though, is to environmental and consumer protection laws.

Last year the Sierra Club inked a position letter on the chapter in the TPP that allows for the tribunal review. Read it HERE

The Sierra Club said in a separate statement “a joint analysis by Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reveals that the current TPP environment chapter…could lead to increased stress on natural resources and species including trees, fish, and wildlife.”

Here’s another example of how this could be harmful. Consider this scenario – one that strikes close to the hearts of Kingstonians:

Let’s say Niagara Bottling (or another company like Nestle) decided to reconsider its business strategy. So they decide to go ahead and build a distribution center for their fleet of vehicles that serve the Northeast at Tech City. There will be no bottling at the plant – at least initially.

And then one day they decide to start drawing water, filtering it and then bottling it to augment their product supply. It could just be drawn from the current supply at Tech City and it could be a very small amount, say 40,000 gallons a day.

After a year, they could document that local laws in Kingston that regulate corporate or commercial use of large quantities of water via the Town of Ulster or directly with the Kingston Water Department is impeding their path to better profits – noting that their strategic plan is to expand water bottling in the Northeast region.

In that scenario, they too – under TPP – would be allowed to have an international tribunal review and overturn any local Kingston City law that thwarts their path to profits.

Earlier today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed one of the steps that would allow TPP to happen.

The National Retail Federation, which represents the retail industry, immediately sent out a press release applauding the move. As mentioned above, retailers have a lot riding on passage of TPP; remember that their profits and long-term outlook depends upon it.

“Today’s vote on trade promotion authority will grant Congress new powers and responsibilities to craft and monitor our 21st century trade policy, and aid our trade representatives as they work to negotiate pending and future trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership,” the NRF statement said.

Up next is a senate version of the bill. They could include language that allows for Congress to give input on the component policies within trade agreements, including TPP. That might help protect consumer and local environmental laws. We’ll have to keep an eye on how things progress in D.C.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:  A version of the trade “fast track” goes to the senate. Contact our senator NOW. 

WATCH Robert Reich on the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Get informed about TPP by checking out the USTR website HERE

And the Sierra Club SITE

And here is the TPP draft pages from WIKILEAKS

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Arthur Zaczkiewicz, MSW, is an editor and writer with over 20 years of journalism experience. He is also a social worker and a community educator and organizer, and a Desert Storm combat veteran.

Kingston YMCA Farm Project Host Fundraiser on May 18th at 8:00pm.

corngirls

 The first fundraiser for the Kingston YMCA Farm Project is planned.  The event will take place on Saturday, May 18th at 8:00pm at the Shirt Factory located at 77 Cornell Street in Kingston. 
 
Kingston, NY –  A new farm project is underway at Kingston’s YMCA located off of Susan Street in Kingston.  Their mission is to educate and empower young people by directly engaging them in sustainable food production on an “urban farm”. Youth will learn and practice the skills needed to produce their own food and to make healthy choices throughout their lifetime, while increasing the community’s access to fresh produce.
 
Led by first generation organic farmer Kaycee Wimbish who is also managing the South Pine Street City Farm in 2013 in Midtown Kingston, the location already hosts 33 community garden plots and a greenhouse on almost 1 acre of land. 
 
The groups first fundraiser party will take place on Saturday, May 18th at 8:00pm located at the Shirt Factory,  77 Cornell Street in Kingston. There will be live music provided by Pocatello and the Rosendale Brass band. DJ Liz will also provide music, and Keegan Ales will provide the beer. A suggested donation of $10 – $20 will be collected, but noone will be turned away. The group encourages all supporters to give what they can. 
 
If you can’t attend but wish to give a donation, you can do so by following this LINK.


For more information, contact KayCee Wimish at: kaycee.wimbish@gmail.com  or call  845/332-2927

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About the Kingston YMCA Farm Project:  This fall we will break ground on a quarter acre farm in Midtown Kingston.  The farm will be a place of education and community food production. The Farm Project will engage young people in the magical process of growing food. With planned integration into the YMCA’s on-site afterschool and summer camp programming, the farm will train 200 young farmers each season. Children will be involved in all aspects of food production and garden care: seeding, transplanting, watering, weeding, harvesting, and ultimately preparing and enjoying the harvest. YMCA Farm Project participants will know exactly where their food comes from, how it grows, and the energy and effort it takes to arrive on a plate. Children participating in this program and the wider community will gain access to fresh, healthy, chemical-free food as the result of the YMCA Farm Project.

 

A Farm Grows in Kingston

By Rebecca Martin

Kingston Land Trust partners Diane Reeder (The Queens Galley) and Diane Davenport (Binnewater Ice)  approved the mission and business plan for turning the South Pine Street Garden into a ‘Farm’ under the stewardship of Farmer Jesica Clark.

Community outreach and a press release will be available in the coming months. In the meantime, Jesica will begin preparing the plot in it’s entirety to include erecting a fence, doing soil tests, bringing in compost and other augmentation and trimming/removing trees in preparation for planting in 2011.

A working mission, partnerships and collaboration and bio of Farmer Clark is below. The garden name will change to reflect the farm’s mission.

If you wish to make an early donation towards this project, you can do so through the Kingston Land Trust.



Those who worked to farm this location during the 2010 season should be directed to Jesica while she is devising a new system for the space. If anyone is interested in working with Jesica this fall please email her directly as well.   jesicaclark21@gmail.com

If you have any additional technical questions at this time, please feel free to contact the Kingston Land Trust  at rebecca@kingstonlandtrust.org or call their office:  845/877-5263.

This is exceptional news for the garden movement in the City of Kingston.

Mission

The South Pine Street Garden will serve as a model of urban agriculture for the city of Kingston and beyond.  A small scale market garden will show that agriculture can thrive in an urban environment and the site will be a place of learning as well as teaching for community organizations, businesses and schools.

Partnerships, Collaboration, Community

The garden and its growers will work in partnership with individuals and organizations in the community to achieve a garden and food based network.   Partnerships include: Binnewater Ice Company, The Queen’s Galley and the Operation Frontline Program, the community (*) and the Kingston Land Trust.

In particular, an extraordinary partnership between the garden and the upcoming restaurant “Rosemary” is planned wherein the garden would provide featured produce to this high profile, innovative Kingston restaurant and the garden would also serve as a learning space for the restaurant staff.

(*)  We will encourage members of the community to participate in the garden through volunteerism, workshops and organized garden “work and play” parties.

Farmer Jesica Clark Bio

Jesica Clark has worked in farming and small scale agriculture for eight years.  She has organized community gardens, managed a small diversified farm in the Hudson Valley and worked for several for-profit as well as not-for-profit, educational farms.  Having grown up in New York City and apprenticed in central Pennsylvania, she has experience in both urban culture and rural living. She is comfortable working with all members of a community and feels that good food is integral not only to physical health but also to social health.

Busy Bees In A BEAHIVE: Coworking Space Coming To Kingston

I received this from Jason Stern, President and Publisher of Luminary Publishing/Chronogram. Very exciting stuff. Please take their survey – and help them to make this a successful project.

INTRO

We’re setting up a coworking space in Kingston. What’s that, you say? Coworking is a growing trend in work collaboration.

Inspired by this worldwide movement, BEAHIVE (www.beahivebeacon.com ) is a new kind of shared workspace for independent professionals. At the most fundamental level, we provide a shared, creative work environment for solopreneurs, the creative class, microbusinesses and consultants.

We also plan programs and events to inspire, educate and bond members and the community: personal and professional development workshops, seminars, social and cultural events.

Perhaps more importantly, we’re kicking around ideas to collaborate on projects to help in creating a lively, living, local community.

The original location opened in May right in the heart of Beacon’s Main Street in an artisan-renovated 1907 Bell Telephone building. Now BEAHIVE is partnering with Chronogram (Luminary Publishing) to populate another hive in Kingston.

We’re hoping we can help inject some energy into Kingston by corralling talented folks out of their homes and into one place to create a buzzing community space. We should be open on Wall St. in November.

We’re looking for coworkers to join us.

Please share your thoughts with us as we prepare to roll this thing out by taking our survey. Link below. It should take no more than 5 minutes.

CLICK HERE TO TAKE SURVEY

Cheers, Scott Tillitt / Antidote Collective/BEAHIVE
Jason Stern / Chronogram/Luminary Publishing

SCOTT TILLITT PR
yogi & writer [ scott@beahivebeacon.com / 917.449.6356 ]

BEAHIVE
collaborative community workspace / join the hive. engage.
sign up for BEAHIVE Bzzz: http://eepurl.com/caxT
[ www.beahivebeacon.com / www.twitter.com/BEAHIVE ]

ANTIDOTE COLLECTIVE
socially conscious communications / apply liberally.
[ www.antidotecollective.org ]

– — – t h i n k / f e e l – — –
…an idea or product that deserves the label ‘creative’ arises from the synergy of many sources and not only from the mind of a single person.” (Mihaly Csikszentmihaly)

Introducing: Environmental Focus On Kingston

A month ago, I put out the word looking for citizens to contribute to the KingstonCitizens.org blog’s. Thanks to those for being in touch.

I am happy to introduce a new series to KC.org called “Environmental Focus On Kingston” written by citizen ‘journalist’ Wilbur Girl. Below is her profile.

Please feel free to comment on these and all of our pieces, or to take the topic to your Yahoo! Group for further resident dialog.

Thanks, and more to come.

Rebecca Martin

Wilbur Girl is a third generation daughter of Kingston. Her roots can be found grown deep into a hill above the southwestern shores of the Rondout Creek in a home that has been in the family since 1943.

In “Environmental Focus on Kingston”, topics will focus on the simple environmental changes and actions everyday citizens can do like rainwater harvesting, composting, tips for greener living and recycling techniques. Learn more about what your neighbors and local businesses are doing to minimize their impact while maximizing their renewable resources. We’ll also look at trends and what other communities are doing to go green and improve their sustainability.

Rain, Rain Everywhere, But Not in the Right Place…

Steve Noble

Steve Noble

As the City of Kingston explores options to separate outdated combined sewage outflow lines, officials may want to consider including a broader storm water mitigation plan that involves installing rain barrels for homes, schools, businesses, hospitals and municipal buildings.

Why? Well, the benefits are enormous, and include reducing the volume of water that has to be treated. More importantly, capturing rain water keeps it from flowing into storm water drains along with road salts, oils and other contaminants on our city roads. And not only does this make our streams and rivers much less polluted, but capturing water reduces flooding.

This past Saturday at the Forsyth Nature Center, Steve Noble, environmental educator, gave a workshop on rain barrels and how easy it is to install one. The barrels cost about $100, and the water captured can be used to wash your car, water your garden and water your plants.

Steve said during the summer months, a rain barrel can save a homeowner about 1,300 gallons of water. If the city were to implement a rain barrel pilot program, say with 500 barrels installed, more than 650,000 gallons of water could be diverted — which saves money in water treatment costs and reduces pollutants as well as flooding.

Worth considering? And as this prior post points out, there could even be a cottage industry here in harvesting rain.

In the meantime, there are other ways that residents can help to reduce the volume of waste water in their homes. Here are some tips from Steve:

* Don’t cut your lawn grass low. Higher grass needs less water.

* Fix dripping faucets, which can waste 54 gallons per month.

* Take shorter showers.

* Turn of the faucet while shaving, washing, brushing teeth and washing dishes.

Interested in buying a rain barrel? Check out the benefits here. To purchase one, see Gaiam or check this page out.

–Arthur Zaczkiewicz

Harvesting Rainwater: A Potential Local, Green Industry for Kingston?

In today’s Freeman (Nation/World, page B2) there is an interesting article from the AP on the first national ordinance for rainwater harvesting on commercial projects in Tucson, AZ. Half of the water supply necessary for landscaping for new business and corporate or commercial structures will need to be harvested beginning next year. 

Kingston environmental educator Steve Noble and Mayor Sottile have been in discussions for some time (on the subject of Kingston’s storm water issues). There are other important community leaders and public officials providing helpful information on what to do, too. How about some ideas and advice from the great minds of our residents? (Bring this subject to your Yahoo! Discussion group to flesh out the subject).

With the recent debate of the city of Kingston taking a ‘green pledge’ to work towards more local, green jobs for our community – could harvesting our own rainwater  help to provide a savings of resources and tax dollars while providing sustainable new jobs for Kingstonians?

What is clear is that if we don’t figure out some sort of solution for our current storm water/raw sewage problem the city is likely to be fined upwards of $37,500 a day by the DEC.  “The problem of sewage getting into the Rondout Creek has long been an issue in the city, where some sewer pipes handle a combination of storm and waste water. During periods of heavy rain, the city’s sewage treatment plant cannot handle the flow, and the overflow goes into the creek. Some pipes overflow directly into the creek.” (Taken from the Daily Freeman. The article in full is attached below).

Read on….

Tuscon Rainwater Harvesting Law Drawing Interest

Kingston lawmakers balk at bond to study revamp of sewer system

– Rebecca Martin

Garden City

There’s much going on in Europe centering on living life without crude oil while reducing electric use and waste generation. In Germany, Great Britain, and other countries there, solar polar and clean energy are top priorities, and sustainability is not just a buzzword, but an employed strategy.

On the food front, there was a recent conference in England that focused on planning for urban farming. Speakers discussed the challenges of transforming London into a food-producing urban city. Check out this column for the full report.

For London, the hurdles are huge. After all, it’s a big city. But I wonder if such concept would work in a small place, like Kingston. In some respects, we’ve already taken the first few steps. Rebecca Martin and the garden committee of the Kingston Land Trust promote community, city and school gardens as well as Victory Gardens for homeowners. Their vision is simple: let’s have a food garden at every home and in our schools and parks.

Of course this is a long-term project that takes time, volunteers and support from local municipalities. But the seeds are already planted and the work has begun, which is why volunteering for this effort is a worthwhile endeavor — we need your help for it to grow.

In the meantime, can you imagine Kingston growing enough food to feed all its residents? I can.

— Arthur Zaczkiewicz

Nature on the Trails

Rail Trail near the Rosendale-New Paltz Border

Rail Trail near the Rosendale-New Paltz Border

I’m lucky to know Julie and Steve Noble, environmental educators at the Forsyth Nature Center as well as board members of the Kingston Land Trust. Yesterday, the three of us biked down to New Paltz from Kingston and along the way I was treated to their expert knowledge of all things about the environment.

Read more…

How About Those Tomatoes!

tomatoesThe National Gardening Association recently released a detailed report that surveyed U.S. households and found a huge jump in the number of people who plan on growing their own food this year.

The survey and report, titled “The Impact of Home and Community Gardening in America” found that 7 million more households “plan to grow their own fruits, vegetables, herbs, or berries in 2009 than in 2008 — a 19 percent increase in participation. This anticipated increase is nearly double the 10 percent growth in vegetable gardening from 2007 to 2008 and reflects the number of new food gardeners emerging this year,” said the NGA.

Read more…

Good Things Seen and Unseen

Kingston Majority Leader and 7th Ward Alderman Bill Reynolds was kind enough to invite Mark Greene and myself onto his show this morning on Kingston Community Radio to chat about the KingstonDigitalCorridor.org initiative. We talked about the progess we’ve made (launching and marketing the campaign) as well as what’s happening next (another social event, a Google maps project and a bus tour, among other stuff).

Read more…